Floods are part of living along and near a river. However, they can cause widespread damage and devastation. Anyone who has watched the power of a raging river understands the immense force that water can unleash on the landscape and anything in its way.
Natural Meandering Reduces Flooding
Luckily, there are some simple management steps we can take in our watershed to minimize the impacts of flooding on our personal and economic lives. Water naturally wants to wander as it moves down to the sea. Keeping and restoring natural meanders to the streams that feed the Sugar River help to slow down water and spread it out over a greater area in flood-prone times. Water that moves in a straight line, especially where it has been channelized, moves quickly and has more power to erode sediments into the streams. Unfortunately, many meandering streams were straightened for convenience before we realized just how detrimental this practice was to the health of the watershed and surrounding communities.
Native Plants Reduce Flooding
Flooding risks occur when snow melts before the frost is out of the ground, and also during periods of high rain when the water can’t soak into the ground. Native plants, like prairie grasses, have deep roots that anchor soil and hold water instead of letting it flow quickly downstream. Farmers can plant native plants where their fields meet streams, and homeowners can plant these native species instead of exclusively using lawn grass that allows water to sheet down to creeks and streams, often carrying fertilizer and other pollutants with it.
The good news is that taking these steps is easy, produces a naturalizing and beautiful landscape, and helps prevent or mitigate the effects of rising water and flooding in the watershed.